Love Never Dies

Lantern of Hope
Tuesday, February 10, 2015

David and Jane’s Story

Jane and David stood immobilized at the Grave long after all the guests had driven away, back to their everyday lives. The gentle breezes circled around the young mother and father, but they spoke not a word, clinging to each other for support. How would they turn their backs after bidding their final farewell?

Parenting their 4 year old son consumed them by choice. It was the driving force in their lives, rousing them out of bed in the morning until they fell joyfully back to slumber in the night. They marveled every moment, amazed by the love they felt for this small human being.

Dusk turned into night and David and Jane made the long journey back to a life they didn’t recognize. It looked foreign and unfamiliar. They were numb and confused, both sure they would never love again.

Expressions of Love

Our expressions of love in our relationships are often mutual and reciprocal. It is the dopamine rush that fuels our desire to feed the relationship. It may be fueled by chemistry and a physical attraction; this is described as Eros love that embodies all the hearts and arrows of the upcoming Hallmark Holiday. In the case of a dependent child our love is a parental, mature, sacrificial kind of love. This is called Agape love, which may often be described in a much broader context.

When the object of our love is no longer present in our everyday world, how do we express our love and where does the love go? Liturgists and biblical scholars profess the eternal nature of love. Yet I have witnessed countless bereaved and heard their cry, “I have lost my love.” Doubt creeps in as the pain of loss overwhelms the broken hearted.

Love After Loss

Like a hibernating bear after a long winter, love eventually begins to stir and emerge within one’s heart once again. The feelings are real. With the help of hard personal exploration, friends, family and faith for some, our love will emerge once again. I have heard some people describe it as, “stronger than before.” This is a joy and exciting to witness.

Through my work with clients, privately and with the SUDEP Institute, I have seen amazing expressions of love. Most human beings are naturally resilient. There is no timeline for grief, but eventually most people move willingly back to functioning in life, often with new found meaning and purpose.

It may be the smallest expression of love to the departed that gives someone grieving encouragement. Love stirs inside of them, letting them know that a continuing bond still exists. Not everyone does something magnanimous or grandiose but some do, like starting a foundation in their loved one’s name. While this connection with your loved one may feel one-way, continuing a bond with the deceased aids in the grief process.

Several researchers who study Thanatology, the scientific study of death, examined how people struggle to find a way of maintaining a connection to the deceased. Rather than the traditional belief that bereaved people enter a stage of disengagement, these researchers realized the bereaved were actually altering and then continuing their relationship to the person who died. Remaining connected facilitated the ability to cope with the loss and the accompanying changes in their lives. These “connections” provided solace, comfort and support and eased the transition from the past to the future. The findings were published in the 1996 book, “Continuing Bonds: New Understandings of Grief." The ideas in this book were both obvious and revolutionary, all at once. The authors, Klass, Silverman, and Nickman, suggested a new grief model rooted in the observation of healthy grief that did not resolve by detaching from the deceased, but rather in creating a new relationship with the deceased.

I suspect when Candy Lightner, the mother who started “Mothers Against Drunk Drivers,” felt and continues to feel great love for her daughter as she goes about advocating on her behalf. Anyone who has ever participated in a walk for a cause that people died from can palpably feel the love at these events expressed physically and emotionally.

Eventually Jane and David came out of their grief hibernation. Both quit their former jobs and put all their savings into a toy store named after their only son they loved so much. They described feeling his presence in all their efforts and delighted daily to hear children laughing and playing. They have found great love and joy in honor and memory of their son.

I could give countless examples of how love lives on, but we would like to hear from you. How will you express your love to your family member gone too soon this Valentine’s Day? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
If we live well, we can love well.

SUDEP Institute Bereavement Support Facilitator Linda Coughlin Brooks RN, BSN, CT, contributes regular articles as part of our bereavement support services. Contact her at sudep@efa.org. Learn more about our support for the bereaved.

Authored by: Linda Coughlin Brooks RN, BSN, CT on 2/2015
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Love
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806 - 1861

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old grief’s, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Source:
"Sonnets from the Portuguese 43"

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